Many Irish diners, even discerning ones like you, might not be hugely familiar with the sweet potato. We at Strong Roots are passionate about the vegetable, not just because it tastes great, but also because of its nutritional value, versatility and the fact that it’s quite new to our grateful taste buds.
This vegetable is sweeter than the potato you know, but still a savoury taste; it’s a root veg, but it’s more satisfying than other roots (as much as we love beetroot and turnips); and it’s equally at home in salads, desserts or especially hearty hot dinners.
Here are a few key facts about this underrated gem of the vegetable world…
1. It’s not a potato
Don’t be fooled by its name, the sweet potato is actually a root vegetable and not part of the potato family.
2. It’s been around a long time
Recorded use of the sweet potato in America dates back to the 17th Century, but it’s existed for even longer than that. In fact, there have been species of sweet potato dating back to prehistoric times, which means that it was likely eaten by a brontosaurus. Peruvians have been farming them since the 8th Century.
3. They come in different colours
Sweet potatoes are usually pictured as orange, but they can be found in shades of pale yellow or even deep purple (nothing to do with the metal band…we think). We prefer the sweet taste and traditional and welcoming colour of the orange strain.
4. They’re very nutritious
Your humble sweet potato is packed with calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. This is why one American colonial physician called them “vegetable indispensable”.
5. They’re versatile
You’d be hard-pressed to find a vegetable that’s used as widely and broadly as the sweet potato. Sweet potato fries are every bit as tasty as (and some say tastier than) normal potato fries; it’s used in pies that have a similar taste and texture as pumpkin pies; they can be boiled, steamed, baked, and fried. They are also canned or dried and made into flour, cereal, and noodles; and they can even be used to make cakes, biscuits and other desserts. In some countries they’re also fermented to make alcohol.
6. Some believe they’re medicinal
Sweet potatoes are used in herbal remedies in parts of Japan and have been recommended in Third World Countries to those lacking in Vitamin A.
The sweet potato is a rightfully beloved staple of millions of meals around the world. We hope that Irish foodies will see the same benefits both in their health and in their palate. Sweet potatoes offer a myriad of benefits…without feeling like eating your vegetables!
By Joe Griffin